Spoiled like Cleopatra: Why a Balinese massage is great for surfer girls

Bali is a paradise of spas and all kinds of pampering (facials, foot-reflexology, manicure, pedicure, etc.)! In Europe, it is hard to find a spa/ salon that offers massages for less than $ 50 US. However, this is not the case in Bali! If you like, you can treat yourself to a delicious full-body massage every single day – without spending a fortune (prices usually range from 50-500 K IDR/ roughly 5-50$)!

Trust me: It is THE BEST thing after a day of surfing! (Actually, it’s pretty amazing at all times haha.) To make the most of your massage experience and the money you paid for it, here are a few tips for you.

Types of massages

There is an endless number of massage styles out there, ranging from relaxing to deep-tissue or intense massages like Shiatsu or Thai massage that can feel painful to some. Make sure you always ask what type of massage you will receive, or which methods they combine in their treatments.

Usually you will be offered a few different options. The traditional Balinese massage is a very gentle, relaxing massage. If you are looking for someone skilled to really dig into those sore muscles and loosen them up for the next surf, head to a spa that offers „(Surfers‘) Deep-tissue massage.“ My personal favourite! You will paddle a million times better the next day. 😉

 The general rundown of a Balinese massage

Don’t be shy when you enter a Spa. Traditionally, you will be paired with a therapist of the same sex. If you have different preferences, feel free to ask for a change. Balinese women traditionally used to dress topless (also in public) well into the 20th century, so don’t worry about showing any naked flesh. They are very easy going when amongst other women.

The therapist will ask you to take off all your clothes (except for your panties). If you’re coming straight from the beach wearing only a wet bikini – no worries! Professional spas always provide some disposable undies for that case. The therapist will usually ask you to lie face-down first and then get you to turn over after half an hour to massage the other side of your body, from head to toe.

Relax and enjoy the relaxation, calm music, feel your blood-circulation and a comfortable tingling from your toes to the top of your head. This means you have found the right therapist! 🙂

Duration of the massage

Depending on your schedule and your individual preferences, you can get a treatment from anywhere between 30 minutes and three or more hours. If you have limited time, a 30-minute foot-massage or back & shoulder-massage might suit you. If you’re looking for great relaxation, a one-hour Balinese massage will be perfect. If you feel drained and want to thoroughly recharge your batteries, a 1,5 or two- hour treatment could be just the right thing. Some spas also offer honeymoon- or couple-packages for several hours, which include for example a body scrub, body massage and flower bath. The choice is yours!

Price range

The prices for a one-hour massage in Bali range widely, depending on the location and often the design of the salon, above the experience of the therapists. You can have a disappointing massage for 350 K at a fancy Spa, whereas an experienced, self-employed therapist might give you an amazing treatment for just 85 K. The price says almost nothing about the experience of the therapist or the quality of the treatment! The best thing is to ask around for recommendations or venture out and try different spas to get an idea of the overall range of options, quality and massage styles.

Roughly, the prices also depend on the location of the spa. It also depends in whether a spa is small and privately-owned or member of a big spa-chain. Including the odd occasion of course, you could roughly sum the prices up as follows:

  • from 50-150K in Kuta, Jimbaran and the Bukit areas
  • 100-300K Sunset Road and some bigger spas (up to 20 beds), also Ubud
  • 300K-1000K at an elegantly furnished spa in the Seminyak or Canggu area
  • up from 1000 K at any of the luxury resorts

The right spa/ salon

When looking for the perfect treatment to suit your individual needs, keep your eyes open. If a salon looks a little dirty or run-down, so will its therapists and the equipment.

I personally really appreciate a spa that offers an initial foot-bath, as the therapist often starts at the feet. Any leftover sand or dust on your feet will be spread over your body if they don’t clean your feet initially.

Another great plus are therapists who wash the oil off their hands before they start a face and head massage. It can get pretty greasy and ugly if they don’t.

Spa Therapists

Since there is a large number of so-called spa schools and training centres in Bali, it is often tricky to judge the quality before the treatment. There is no clear central authority that ensures consistent quality of spas, so it is a lot up to you to suss out what works for you. One thing I have learned is that bigger spas and chains are more likely to hire inexperienced, bad or careless therapists, because they have quite a large turnover of clients and do not rely on regular customers. Whereas a small, perhaps family-owned spa will show much more interest in your satisfaction to ensure that you return and bring friends!

Similar to choosing the right spa, you should pick your therapist wisely. If you are just trying it out, you may be happy with anybody. However, if you decide to get a massage regularly, you will find out more and more what you like. It will make a lot of sense to remember the name of your favourite therapist for your next booking.

Atmosphere/ (outside) noise

The aim of any massage is to calm your mind and heal your body. Thus, it is not a great idea to visit a spa that is exposed to a lot of noise, for example from a busy road out the front. Unless it is located in a big building, you will constantly be distracted by the noise and have no chance to settle in and enjoy the treatment.

Furthermore, you should seek a spa that specializes only in massage and other body treatments. It can be uncomfortable to lay down in the back of a crowded hairdresser’s or a beauty salon that constantly smells of nail polish. In addition to that, you can generally rely on the fact that a spa with a limited range of treatments will be more professional and experienced at what they do.

Another big distracting factor can be inexperienced, disrespectful therapists who chit-chat and giggle throughout your treatment. If this happens, either politely mention it during the treatment or report to the management after. It is simply unprofessional and absolutely not what you paid for.

Scented natural oils

Most smaller spas will use a mix of massage cream and (coconut) oil for your treatment. Some (more expensive) spas offer the luxury of choosing your favourite scented oil. Generally, anything is fine, though, as the essential oils not only nourish your skin, but offer aromatherapy at the same time. Close your eyes, listen to the calming music and breathe in the heavenly scent of Frangipani, Lavender or other luxurious flowers.

Shower or not?

You may feel a little oily or sticky after the treatment and therefore many spas offer (hot) showers. However, the tradition says that you should not wash off the precious oil, as it helps to moisturize and nourish your skin.

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